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Savage Mountain Paperback – July 21, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Brothers James and Sebastian react differently to their oppressive father's abuse. Sebastian tries to be the perfect son, achieving in school and personal life, while James is a rebel always getting in trouble. Neither approach works. So they decide to spend their summer climbing a mountain and prove they are "real men" to their Vietnam-vet, football-playing father. While they are not able to change their relationship with their dad, they are able to get to the summit and grow as people and brothers. Set in the interior of Alaska, this novel balances family dynamics, brother-bonding, and high-stakes adventure. Set in the 1980s, any possible technological solutions (such as a cell phone) are plausibly removed. The main characters are well developed and readers get good insights into their personalities and inner thoughts. The mountaineering and Alaskan drama is both realistic but also exotic, suspenseful, and exciting. The only drawback is that occasionally Smelcer tends toward the moralistic and didactic, relying on narration to prove a point instead of more natural plot or character development. That should not keep this book from appealing to reluctant readers, though. VERDICT Extreme adventure sequences and the strong brotherly relationship make this a solid general purchase.—Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK
"John Smelcer is a writer's writer. His refined and economical style offers an easy and exciting read . a true experience of two brothers surviving their fractured family and an unforgiving environment. Smelcer crafts a breathtaking Alaskan adventure story of struggle and determined will as the boys run out of everything except pure grit." —Midwest Book Review, Reviewer's Choice
"Set in the interior of Alaska, this novel balances family dynamics, brother-bonding, and high-stakes adventure . The mountaineering and Alaskan drama is realistic but also exotic, suspenseful, and exciting. VERDICT Extreme adventure sequences and the strong brotherly relationship make this a solid general purchase." — School Library Journal
Top customer reviews
I like the theme of fathers and sons in this novel. Sons are often trying to win their father's approval by attempting to do something worthy. I have tried to do things in school and in my career to make my dad proud of me. I failed many times, because I did not get good grades or the job I wanted. The father and son theme in the book resonates with me, because it reminds me of my teenage years. My dad revealed in a documentary film of how proud he is of me a few months ago. I love it when an author provides me with a theme I can relate to. Smelcer provides discussion questions at the end of the novel. I like it when an author does provide questions at the end of a book. It helps me reflect on what I just read.
This book uses simple language yet mature subject matter and language too inappropriate for readers requiring simple language. It is very poorly edited as well. I found no less that 7 editing errors, which, for a finished product by a NY editor, shouldn't happen.
The storyline is not very interesting and the characters are shallow even for young adult readers. The abusive father is written so that he is horrible but it is over the top; almost like an 80's 'B' movie. So are the conversations between the brothers. There is no depth and for an experienced author, there should be a little more substance.
The author clearly knows a lot about mountain climbing but very little about writing and character development. I was stunned to read his list of previous award winning books in the back of the book because this one seems like it was written on short deadline. (As in, he wrote it a week before it was due and the publisher just went with it.)
I read (and begrudgingly finished) this book for an Alaska Studies graduate course to annotate and recommend or not recommend to teachers. I do not recommend this book at all. It has no educational value except to use as an example of how NOT to write and possibly for students (older students - 8th and higher) to use to write a book review of an awful book. This book has nothing informational about Alaska that you couldn't otherwise get from much better novels such as, "Tisha", "The Smell of Other People's Houses", "My Name is Not Easy", or "Goodbye My Island." I highly recommend each of these titles but steer clear of this one.
Do not buy this book. It is a huge waste time and paper.